The Princess of Rhythm: A Fictional Biography of Guylaine Guy

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Born Guylaine Chailler in 1929, Guylaine Guy began her professional career in Montreal’s music-hall cabarets, before being noticed by famous French singer-songwriter Charles Trenet, who wrote songs for her and invited her to produce in Paris in mid-2000s. The 1950s.

Guylaine Guy will tour four continents and even act in a French feature film, The night of the suspectsinspired by the work eight womenby Robert Thomas.

Former magazine music journalist WatchCatherine Genest fell in love with the story of Guylaine Guy, an artist who was sadly left in the shadow of another Quebecois music star from the same era.

She really is a giant. Since she was the second star Quebec International, being the first Alys Robi, I thought it was important to talk about her.says the writer, who is now a columnist and researcher for Radio-Canada and also a desk editor for the magazine New project.

some artistic license

Catherine Genest spent six years working on The princess of rhythm his first novel. She used her investigative skills to piece together the various elements of her heroine’s life by searching various databases, such as the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ) and the Radio-Canada archives. She also had in her hands historical documents located in Brazil, France and the United States.

He also had the chance to talk to Guylaine Guy, who lives in Trouville-sur-Mer in Normandy, and who unfortunately has Alzheimer’s.

His memories are quite swallowed up by the disease, says Catherine Genest. The last time I saw her was just before the pandemic. His most vivid memories were of the song’s lyrics. In Rosemont in the rainthat he Quebec poet Raymond Lévesque I had written for her.

To make up for the gaps in the biographical trajectory, Catherine Genest took the liberty of adding a few little literary fantasies. I want to, I don’t want to, because of Alzheimer’s, there were missing pieces of the puzzle that I couldn’t fill in with archival research. So, I had fun imagining what his life might have been like.

A woman wears headphones during an interview in a recording studio.

catherine genest

Photo: Radio-Canada/Alice Chiche

For example, when she discovered three old photographs of a man in a keepsake box, identified on the back as a certain Al Lanti, her imagination ran wild.

Can-Can de Cole Porter”,”text”:”C’était un acteur et un danseur de Broadway qui a joué avec elle dans la création de la pièce Can-Can de Cole Porter”}}”>He was a Broadway actor and dancer who starred with her in the creation of the play Cancanby Cole Porterthe writer explains.

And so I imagined a little love story for them, because I told myself that if she kept pictures of this man all her life, there must be something. I gave myself little liberties like that, from one place to another, to romanticize the story.

According to Catherine Genest, 80% of the novel’s content is factual, while % a été brodé autour de ce [qu’elle avait] réussi à trouver”,”text”:”20 % a été brodé autour de ce [qu’elle avait] réussi à trouver”}}”>20% was embroidered around this [qu’elle avait] I could find.

an indelible nickname

One of the most decisive meetings in Guylaine Guy’s career was that of Louis Armstrong, trumpeter and singer who marked the history of jazz. It was he who gave him the nickname that inspired the title of the novel.

stunt [coup] publicitaire, explique Catherine Genest. Louis Armstrong a convoqué une armée de photographes de presse à l’Olympia de Paris et, dans une cérémonie de couronnement, l’a coiffée d’un diadème en l’appelant “la princesse du rythme”, sous les crépitements des photographes.”,”text”:”Dans ce temps-là, on avait vraiment le sens du spectacle et du stunt [coup] publicitaire, explique Catherine Genest. Louis Armstrong a convoqué une armée de photographes de presse à l’Olympia de Paris et, dans une cérémonie de couronnement, l’a coiffée d’un diadème en l’appelant \”la princesse du rythme\”, sous les crépitements des photographes.”}}”>At that time, we really had a sense of showmanship and trick [coup] advertising, explains Catherine Genest. Louis Armstrong summoned an army of press photographers to the Olympia in Paris and, at a coronation ceremony, he crowned her with a tiara, calling her “the princess of rhythm,” to crackles from photographers.

A man plays the trumpet in a black and white photograph.

louis armstrong

Photo: Library of Congress

This prestigious award represents a unique recognition in the world of jazz. Guylaine Guy is, in fact, the only French-speaking woman and the only white woman to have been adorned with this title, which was awarded to monuments of African-American music such as Ella Fitzgerald and Bessie Smith.

Guylaine really understood jazz at a time when there weren’t many white musicians who understood it, says Catherine Genest. She is like a super chameleon who was able to go to those areas.

Finally, Catherine Genest believes that it is important to contextualize the critical appreciation of a figure like Guylaine Guy, who had his moment of glory seven decades ago.

We live in a time where singer-songwriters are highly valued, but Guylaine did not live in a time where women were allowed to write and compose. So that doesn’t make her any less of a good musician or less of a great artist.she points out.

I hope people remember her as a great trailblazer and, I mean, a great feminist, because she really did break the glass ceiling many times.

This text was written from a interview conducted by Eugénie Lépine-Blondeaucultural columnist on the show all one morning. Comments may have been edited for clarity or conciseness.

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